Do You Want to be Reborn?

Suffering is the Norm

I’m no believer in the afterlife. There’s just no reason to think that there’s anything after you die. Like a candle being snuffed out, your consciousness doesn’t “go” anywhere. It just disappears. But it’s interesting to think about being reborn. Every one of us is born into his/her situation by pure luck – or bad luck. In my case, I’ve been incredibly lucky. I have no genetic diseases that I know of, have no financial problems, was born into a family that provided me with an education that enables me to live a relaxed life. Taking things further, I was even lucky to have English as a first language. So many people struggle to speak it well and it just came to me on its own. With no effort.

And yet for most of the world’s population suffering is the norm, not the exception. Within the human species itself, people like me are within a hair’s breadth of the most well off people on the planet. Half a hair’s breadth! It’s not just a question of money. I have no worries, no responsibilities, no kids…nothing. There are beggars born in places like India and starving kids all over Africa. I could have been born a woman in the Middle East or some other deeply Islamic country. And why talk of the present alone? What if I was a slave hundreds of years ago? Or a female slave? There are women even now whose lives are an unmitigated horror.

And what of the suffering we inflict on billions of animals every year? Cows, chickens, dolphins, pigs, dogs and a multitude of other creatures live in hell every day to feed us. The last thing I want is to be born as a calf in a slaughterhouse. Imagine never being allowed to stand so that my muscles become soft just to get the right taste.

And humanity is just the tip of the iceberg. Creatures in the natural world have their own share of unimaginable suffering. Spider wasps paralyze their prey so that their eggs can hatch and burrow inside it and literally eat it alive from the inside out. It saves the organs for the last to keep the spider alive as long as possible. While none of this is malicious, suffering in nature is horrendous on an epic scale. It would be so easy to have been born an insect. There are 100 million of them for each human being on earth! The chances of me being born a human are abysmally low.

Which leads me to my main question – do I even want be reborn (if possible) after I die? Given the fact that I have no choice about the kind of organism I’m born as, I would rather remain dead. Chances are that I’ll lead a shitty and pain filled life before dying a miserable death. This current life of mine is the only one I want to live!

Comments

  1. indianhomemaker says:

    Most people don’t want to be reborn themselves, they want those they miss to be born somewhere close to them.
    I am sure the idea of life after death was created to comfort those who have lost loved ones. We told our kids that our dog had gone to an amazing place where there were loving people and favourite treats, they believed it, also because they wanted to. I am sure that’s how the whole idea of rebirth began. I also feel most people don’t believe in rebirth, but they want to.

  2. Clueless says:

    I want to be reborn as my pet dog. He does nothing and gets awesome care, 3 walks a day and does not have the brains to concern himself with global warming or gender stereotyping. He is easily amused and mostly happy.

    Unfortunately wishful thinking does not make anything true :( And fortunately there is no such thing as rebirth because like you pointed out, the odds are really stacked against me.

    • Lol – I’ve often thought that some dogs lead awesome lives. Though I wonder if my ego would allow me to accept scraps from someone’s table as I try and obtain their sympathy with big eyes :)

      Still, it looks like most dogs don’t mind!

  3. Shail says:

    Nope. I don’t want to be reborn, ever.

  4. Hrishikesh Bawa says:

    Rebirth has always fascinated me. This is because people who die, cannot tell about what happens after death and about the process of rebirth (on account of being dead). I have been told that in a hindu scripture it is said that there are 84000 species of animals ( I could be wrong in recollection here)and a study in 2011 puts the estimate at 8.7 million (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14616161).

    Since the second is backed by research I will go with that, which means that I have a 1/8.7million chances of being born as any. Add to that the idea of species going extinct, the undiscovered species, the ones we create by selective breeding and genetics and what not.

    For that matter (as said in another comment here) , some of my friends’ pets live a more luxurious life than I do.

    Also, what makes me think is that let us say one is reborn as an animal or tree, what sort of mental faculties do we retain that would make us want to act better whilst as animals to bump up our karma?

  5. Anon says:

    I’m late to the party but I’d like to point out a misconception: in most belief systems, reincarnation is not assigned through random chance. Many religions say that because you were born a human at least once already (in this life) you are already on the path to enlightenment and release from cycle of birth, death and rebirth. According to Buddhism, there is an intermediary period after death and before rebirth during which your “higher self” (essentially your spirit or soul free of earthly limitations) arranges the conditions for your next life and decides how much karma you will meet. This is because Buddhists believe that reincarnation and the suffering it inflicts is a means to an end, a way of meeting the karma you accrue and attaining perfection. Other beliefs contend that there is no higher self in charge of your reincarnative prospects, but that karma directly acts without your input. Eithet way, for most of us living on Earth is like learning the hard way, hence the pervasive suffering here. Jesus Christ said, “I have come not to call the righteous, but to call the sinners to repentance.” Many believers in Karma and Reincarnation interpet this as him saying, “Those on Earth who are righteous do not need me because they are already on the path to perfection, but those who are sinners, those who inflict suffering and limit those who are righteous, they need someone to call for their repentance, that they may escape the dredges of their soul and set out on the path to perfection themselves.” Once you have met your karma (suffering on Earth is merely a means of doing so at an accelerated rate) and cleansed your soul of imperfection, you can achieve nirvana or moksha (depending on your religion)–release from the cycle of reincarnation. The “sinners” are essentially trapped in a cycle of repeteadly accruing negative karma, thus they need someone to direct them in how to accrue positive karma. Any way you look at it, the overlying system here explains why some people are born into favourable conditions and others into unfavourable conditions–some of us need to meet karma, some of us were handed the short straw in a previous life, some of us need to learn something from those conditions.

    So when you say, “I don’t know if I want to be reincarnated,” you’re kind of getting the point of reincarnation. The entire purpose of it is to encourage you to set out towards perfection, so that you can escape reincarnation with an unstained “soul” (I use brackets because there is some contention among beliefs whether or not a soul exists in the conventional sense). The only advice I can offer is: even if you don’t believe in anything I explained, just live a good life.

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